I like to photograph flowers in a natural setting to preserve the feeling that the flower is part of nature, rather than extracted as part of a bouquet. The problem is that the background can be confusing, so much so it’s hard to identify the subject. Recently I brought along some black background material to experiment with isolating flowers. Perhaps predictably, the photos are more dramatic and, yes, less natural.
Here is the plant chosen as the victim for this experiment:
It’s a cobwebby thistle (Cirsium Occidentale), an attractive member of the thistle family with red flowers and grayish stems and leaves. Some call it cobweb thistle. This particular one is on Abbott’s Lagoon Trail in the Point Reyes National Seashore, in California an hour or so north of San Francisco. The ground has California poppies of a variety more yellow than the typical orange.
I have a small collapsible fabric reflector that I use occasionally for fill light in close-ups. It folds into a black zippered bag about six inches in diameter. The disk-shaped bag served as my black background. I held the disk with one hand and the camera with the other. A Pro would use a tripod and a stand, but this is quickshotartist.com. The picture was taken with a 60mm Nikon macro on a Nikon D80. A pocket camera would be easier to hold.
An enlarged version is here.
The cobwebby part of the thistle is at the base. There are many different forms, some more cobwebby and some less, as the bloom progresses through it’s life cycle.
While I was at it, I used the flat white reflector to try a bright background.
The backgrounds show the flower distinctly. That’s an advantage for identification photos. It also yields a dramatic graphic-arts quality. But it looks less like a part of nature and more like an ornament. So should backgrounds be used or not? I conclude … it all depends.